Monday, August 08, 2016

Books I read in July

Can you believe it's August already?

I got more reading done this month, in spite of two short trips (Goa again, yay!) and near my new-normal level of socialising.

The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
I've read about this book for years, and finally got around to reading it. It's a seminal work in feminist literary criticism, and examines how classic women writers - Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson -- subverted and shaped literary conventions. If you're interested in literature and feminism, it's fascinating, even though some chapters are somewhat dry and academic.

The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
I had read this years ago (as I had Villette) but I was tempted to revisit it based on some paragraphs in The Madwoman in the Attic which shed a new light on my recollections. It's interesting and fun, and not quite as subversive as anything written by Jane Eyre's author should be, being a more straightforward hero+makes+his+way+in+the+world+and+wins+the+love+of+a+good+woman, but it has its moments (and The Madwoman in the Attic had some fascinating suggestions on how to read it as more subversive than it is).


Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Slightly more interesting than the Professor, by virtue of being narrated by a woman -- that too, a woman who's not to outward aspect a heroine. It's like Bronte took the woman who'd be the heroine's (the beautiful, good faithful, passionate girl) friend and decided to make this about her. It's more quiet than Jane Eyre -- less passionate, more realistic.

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History
I haven't read all through this: I used to leaf through a few pages now and again, and then hurriedly wrapped it up to give one of my nieces. It's an excellent introduction to feminist (American) history for a young person. It had a lot I didn't know, and a few brilliant stories and poems.

The Boy Who Asked Why by Sowmya Rajendran (Author) and Satwik Gade (Illustrator)
Fantastic introduction to Ambedkar for kids. We got this for a nephew.

Voices in the Valley 
by Suravi Sharma Kumar

I'm not linking to this because I'm not recommending it. It's an interesting enough story, a depiction of the events leading up to and following the 'Assam Agitation', based on its impact on a relatively privileged but fairly typical rural family. But I disapprove both of an "outsider" telling the story and of how boring the story itself was. I ploughed through it, but even after following the protagonist through the whole novel, I don't have much of a sense of who she is, what she believes in, why she loved her husband, why she chose the career she did... none of it.

Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn
People keep recommending Julia Quinn to me, and I think this is the second I've read. But I was very disappointed -- angry -- at this. The hero is a piece of shit, and I don't know how Quinn can write about her otherwise wonderful, interesting, brave heroine agreeing to trust him and marry him because he kidnaps her and holds her prisoner. That's not love, it's literally Stockholm Syndrome.

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
I'd never read the Twilight books, though I'd watched most of the first movie and read through most of Ana Mardoll's engrossing deconstruction (yeah, engrossing even if you've not read the books, because it was so much a part of popular culture.) Back when they were popular, I was very snobbish about these books and insisted I wasn't going to waste time on them. I was a stupid asshole. I quite liked them, especially the first two, and can completely believe my teenage self becoming a huge fan. I want to write more about this -- why I could see my teenage self identify with Bella and think both Edward and Jacob (who I now recognize are entitled, manipulative assholes) were amazing. Maybe I'll actually write another blog post this month.

Wuthering Heights (New Casebooks)
This is a collection of essays on Emily Bronte's famous novel. It's not enough to say that Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite novels ever: it's such a powerful piece of art. I reread it some months ago and appreciated it all over again, discovering new aspects (such as what an ass Lockwood is) that I'd glossed over when I was younger. These essays discuss -- and debate -- the novel, and opened my eyes a bit wider. If you're interested in the novel and learning more about it, they make for an interesting read.

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